Job ID: 100661

PhD position on “Whole brain dynamics of memory representations of observational fear learning”

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 19 February 2023

Employment Start Date: 1 May 2023

Contract Length: 48 Months

City: Nijmegen

Country: Netherlands

Institution: Radboud University

Department: Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior


Empathy and emotional contagion are key features of social mammals, humans in particular and permeate the way we interact with others and the environment, and the way we learn about the world. As a PhD candidate in the “Neuronal Networks of Memory” lab, you will develop and employ state-of-the art neurophysiological and behavioral techniques to elucidate the neural basis of these faculties across the entire brain.


With this PhD project we will leverage the most recent methodological and conceptual advances in rodent neuroscience to decipher the underlying mechanisms and circuitry, and thereby open a window into the mechanisms behind a core element of culture. To do so, the Neuronal Networks of Memory group (PI: Francesco Battaglia) in Nijmegen, which  helped unraveling how animals form spatial memories will join force with the Social Brain Lab at the NIN in Amsterdam (PIs: Christian Keysers and Valeria Gazzola), among the world leaders in the study of how the emotions of others are mapped onto the emotions of observers. We will refine existing behavioral models to capture how the experiences of others are represented in memory. We will map the circuitry connecting social-affective and spatial representations. In rodents, we will identify and modulate engrams of contexts and affective experiences across the entire brain, relating the function of areas that are known to be important for empathy (such as anterior cingulate cortex), with the function of whole brain resting state network, such as the default mode network that are related to introspection and memory.

We will make use of calcium, voltage imaging and advanced electrophysiology. The new PhD candidate will work within a team with strong experimental and analytical expertise. The project is funded by a new collaborative between Radboud University and the NIN.


  • You have a Master’s degree in Neuroscience, Biology or exact sciences.
  • You have a good command of oral and written English.
  • You are open to further develop your scientific communication skills through presentations and publications.
  • You have a strong interest in neuroscience.
  • Experience with experimental neuroscience and/or command of programming and electronics are a big plus.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year total contract).

  • It concerns an employment for 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,541 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,247 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract).
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University’s primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.


You will work in the Neuronal Networks of Memory group, including strong expertise (~10 members) in all sectors of experimental and theoretical systems neuroscience. The lab has contributed several important results in experimental and theoretical neuroscience and is funded by several large grants (ERC, NWO, Gravitation program). We strive for a safe, pleasant, collaborative working environment providing young researchers for what they need in order to flourish. Our lab is embedded in the Donders Institute and in the Faculty of Science at Radboud University.

The Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour is a world-class interfaculty research centre that houses more than 700 researchers devoted to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of the human mind. Research at the Donders Institute is focused around four themes: 1. Language and communication, 2. Perception, action and control, 3. Plasticity and memory, 4. Neural computation and neurotechnology. Excellent, state-of-the-art research facilities are available for the broad range of neuroscience research that is being conducted at the Donders Institute. The Donders Institute has been assessed by an international evaluation committee as ‘excellent’ and recognised as a ‘very stimulating environment for top researchers, as well as for young talent’. The Donders Institute fosters a collaborative, multidisciplinary, supportive research environment with a diverse international staff. English is the lingua franca at the Institute.

The Donders Institute values a diverse workforce. Female candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.

The Faculty of Science is a complete, student-oriented science faculty where research and education are closely intertwined. The faculty aims to form an academic community with an international character, where staff members from different backgrounds can combine their talents with the common goal of being among the leading science faculties in Europe.

Radboud University

We want to get the best out of science, others and ourselves. Why? Because this is what the world around us desperately needs. Leading research and education make an indispensable contribution to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This is what unites the more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University. And this requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!


For questions about the position, please contact Prof. Francesco Battaglia  at